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Succession management - case studies

Here are some examples of recent succession schemes in large organisations.


The BBC has been establishing and developing its talent management and succession processes since 2010. The aim of the overall strategy is to have detailed and comprehensive information about their staff’s ability and potential, so as to have the right talent available to meet current and future business objectives.

The strategy makes use of a range of tools, including talent mapping. The BBC is committed to talent mapping because:

  • It enables the organisation to have clarity about the skills needed to meet business objectives, and a clear, consistent and comprehensive picture of the talent and skills available, so that roles and people can be matched as closely as possible. The best use is made of the talent available.
  • This enables good-quality succession planning for known vacancies, and diminishes the risk posed by unknown vacancies occurring. Because there is a clear picture of the talent available, plans can be put in place for developing a pool of people internally and matching development plans to organisational need, or recruiting for it externally.
  • Talent mapping results in a consistent approach which provides transparency but also facilitates movement around the organisation.
  • People feel valued knowing that their leaders are proactively engaged in thinking about their development. They benefit from clear career direction. Development plans can be matched to organisational and individual need.

Because processes are consistent and transparent, performance conversations with managers are of a high quality, which results in clear actions for those identified as successors and improvement plans for poor performance. In addition, those who perform well but may not have potential for promotion can still be recognised by the organisation and developed appropriately through this process.

University of Kent

The University of Kent has recognised that to respond to challenges organisationally, we need to embrace change, be more agile and responsive to the external environment, and increase capacity for coping with uncertainty. All of these challenges have implications for staff and we need staff at all levels making positive change happen. This involves utilising the skills of our staff by recognising these skills, giving them the space and confidence to develop their capabilities, supporting them in their growth and success, harnessing their energy, ideas, inspiration and commitment and influencing others to do the same.

At an organisation level, the benefits of the Leadership Programme for Professional Services Managers (LPPSM) are enormous and include improved cross-university collaboration, deeper alignment of administrative processes, clearer understanding of the importance of managers’ initiative in realising the institutional plan, and an enhanced reputation for the university as a flexible and change-ready organisation.

As a programme cohort, participants develop an increased understanding of the strategic context and the challenges facing managers across the university; improve their capacity to support the performance and development of others as well as their ability to influence and have an impact on others outside their immediate area; improve relations and increase respect for professional expertise outside their home department or school; and become more aware of the importance of continuing and sustaining their own development through peer coaching and networks.

At an individual level, participants are able to enhance their own leadership capability; increase their understanding of their own preferences and working styles and those of colleagues across the university; create and work with a focused personal development plan (PDP); and create a clearer picture of where expertise, experience and knowledge exist across schools and departments.

Nottingham Trent University

It is vital that the sector makes the most of the talent within our universities.

Our aim at NTU is to better understand, develop and utilise the talent that already exists in our organisation by making succession planning and the development of potential a core business process.

Our approach to talent management and Succession Planning in NTU has been to focus on our academic population as this is our core activity. We must make well-informed people decisions, so we ensure we have objective evidence available.

Staffing is a significant cost for all HEIs, and we need therefore to ensure we have a professional approach to making people decisions. Our work in this area has been crucial in underpinning both our development and recruitment activity over the last few years.

It is important to ensure that effective succession planning is in place for key roles in the university and we were interested in creating a systematic programme to this end.

NTU’s strategy has many strands that point to the need for the university to make best use of resources and have people ready for the jobs that will be needed.

The programme aims to identify high-potential staff and make an additional investment in them, and to have more credible internal candidates when vacancies occur.

Imperial College London

Imperial College London sets out the mission statement for its talent development strategy as a framework and mechanism for investment in staff and the building of a culture of learning and high performance; also as a contribution to managing diversity and to the college’s branding agenda and employer-of-choice status.

The aims of the strategy are to:

  • Provide a talent development framework for Imperial College London staff;
  • Support Imperial’s mission, values and strategic plan;
  • Build on existing learning and development provision and complement college policies and procedures, particularly the personal review and development planning process;
  • Place a clear responsibility on senior managers across Imperial for the identification and support of talented staff at all levels;
  • Contribute to the succession management agenda;
  • Involve individual staff more explicitly in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of their own development.

The strategy currently encompasses two talent development frameworks, the goals of which are:

  • To identify those staff with the potential to fill key leadership roles in the future;
  • To demonstrate to participants that the college values them and is committed to developing them over the long term;
  • To broaden the experience, awareness and aspirations of participants;
  • To help participants both to increase the value they are adding in their current roles and to develop their leadership and management capability for future roles;
  • To see graduates of the scheme applying for and moving into more senior roles;
  • To retain individuals who have participated in the programme;
  • To create an active and supportive cohort of programme alumni.

Managers regard the programmes run under the strategy as critical to the identification, development and retention of talented staff. Although participation in the programmes does not guarantee promotion, it does provide opportunities for professional development.

Newcastle University

Newcastle’s guiding principle is that effective leadership and management are essential to success and future growth. Therefore as well as recruiting a percentage of their new leaders externally they have established a strategy to implement robust succession processes, to ensure not just that the right leaders and managers are in place to take the institution forward but that a pool of talent is available to draw on. This has the added benefit of mitigating risk; when vacancies arise, there is talent available and prepared to operate at the highest levels.

The aims are: to anticipate forthcoming known and unexpected vacancies, and to plan and work proactively to fill them with internal talent; to identify and develop individuals who are able to fill these vacancies and perform at the highest levels; to provide professional development activity that has been designed to meet business needs, but also allow tailored development for individuals in their own particular circumstances and roles.

University of Leeds

The Tomorrow’s Leaders development programme aims to improve the university’s approach to succession management by early identification of a selected pool of people with high leadership potential, and development of their leadership and management skills and abilities to take on a range of senior academic and professional roles.